Six Questions for ... Kurt Vile

kurt vile

Lately when people ask me for a music recommendation, or what I've been listening to, I invariably and immediately respond: "Kurt Vile." Perhaps you remember my fawning over him in my SXSW recap. What's most exciting about listening to the Philadelphia psych-folk-singer-songwriter at this point is that you know you're dealing a dude on the verge of something special. Right now he's still a word-of-mouth secret, but that should change once he signs with one of the biggest indie labels around. (Which is imminent, unless "something really crazy happened and it fell through -- which is pretty much not going to happen," Vile said. Major hint in his last answer.)

He's released a small slew of albums lately and each of them is imperfect, but that's sort of what makes them so appealing. There are a few too many ambient soundscapes on "Constant Hitmaker" and "God Is Saying This To You," but in between those mood pieces there are perfect little songs like "Freeway" or "My Best Friends (Don't Even Pass This)." Those tunes have a bedroom-recording quality where it sounds like he's singing right into your ear. That's showcased even better on a live session he did for WFMU, which you can listen to and download in its entirety and the ridiculously cool Free Music Archive.

Vile plays at the Velvet Lounge on Saturday night as part of the wild and wacky DNA Test Fest. I got him on the phone and while he's as laidback as you might expect from his hazy, spacey recordings (check out that first answer), he's also got a bit of businessman in him. It was actually kind of refreshing.

Do you prepare any differently for when you play solo, like for this show in D.C., compared to with the full band?
It's actually pretty laidback either way. I'm just used to both, you know? I have a ton of songs I can whip up in either arrangement. It's no big deal. I'll just play right before a gig to figure out new stuff or bring back old shit or whatever. It's not a big deal at all.

You have lots of releases lately. "Constant Hitmaker" is the one proper album, then there's a whole bunch of EPs, CD-Rs, 7-inches. Do you like putting out lots of hard to find things?
No. I guess ["Constant Hitmaker"], that was the one to sort of "get my name out there." That was the first where someone was actually putting out my record that wasn't me. I knew it would get reviewed, at least. I'm happy that people responded pretty positively. I don't know, it's a pretty cheap case and everything. It's not exactly the most flattering release. But I was psyched to have [Gulcher] put it out and then I just had other offers and slowly, when I kind of got down to it, I knew at least record collectors would be into it. I knew how to make a release weird and good. But I just banged out all these offers and they ended up coming out at the same time. I kind of knew the recordheads would like it. I knew made sure it was weird enough while still sitting on my ultimate full-length for a bigger label.

(More after the jump.)

Do you feel like your best songs are spread out over these releases?
It's a little all over the map, yeah. I put a lot of my best songs on "Constant Hitmaker" but they were older. I didn't give away my newest stuff. I kind of always had a plan.

Your new EP, "The Hunchback," is with a full band. Do you write songs knowing they'll be solo or with the band?
Well usually they start solo and I'll bring it to a band arrangement. Every once in a while I'll write something for the band. But pretty much everything has been written on an acoustic guitar. Even [the songs on "Huncback"], they started out pretty stripped down. When I first made them I didn't necessarily know that we'd be kind of shredding to them. With "Hunchback," believe it or not, it was kind of like a mellow strummer ... ["Freak Train," from the upcoming album] I wrote that riff, again, on acoustic. During that era, that was a few years ago, I was only thinking of the band. It was a more stripped down band. But for a small amount of time a few years ago I thought of everything in terms of the band. But since then I've gone back to solo and band again. But for a little bit of time there I was really obsessed with the live, the psychedelic rock show thing.

Do you think you'll still have the freedom to do things in the manner that you've been doing them once you're on a bigger label?
I mean, I should be able to play whatever show I want to play. Like if I was coming through and Sean from DNA had something going on, I could still play that. I like DIY, there's a lot of great vibes playing DIY things, as opposed to playing the same kind of venues all the time. So I feel like I could still do relatively what I want to do. But it's not like I don't plan to make a living too. Just play it as it comes I guess.

Do you have any trepidation about heading into that indie-hype-blog world?
No, man, I'm excited. I'm real genuinely into my music. I don't think there's any gimmicks to it. I feel pretty sincere about it. I'm excited, really excited. I always wanted it. Pavement was one of my favorite bands forever. They sort of did the same thing where they put out lots of singles and stuff first. But the hardest part is right before then when you have to deliver everything at a specific deadline. Getting it mastered, getting the art work -- it's all pretty much done, but you're just kind of juggling everything. And then all of a sudden once there's an official deadline ... I've never really had that sort of thing. The record's done, I just have to master it and deal with the art work. I just tend to stay up late a lot and stress over things. But I'm psyched. Definitely.

By David Malitz |  April 24, 2009; 1:10 PM ET Inauguration , Interviews , Kurt Vile
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